Report on “Limiting Democracy: The American Media’s World View, and Ours”
Central Arguments and Conclusion of the Essay
The author, Glenn Greenwald argues that although, many people insist that an argument that knowledge and information they gain in current society is limited is almost forgotten due to the technological innovation, people’s knowledge and understanding in terms of politics and any kind of news is still limited due to their lack of willingness to obtain more information than they currently have and the regulation of the government and what media do to assure that knowledge is limited. His main focus is the political knowledge in the United States. The reasons that the information people get is still limited are (1, even though, it is possible to gain more information in current society than now, people tend to feel the information they currently have and are received is enough and all they need to know, so they do not search further than that without reason. 2), people are conditioned to believe that they have freedom of their choice in terms of politics or expression through their education and culture, and they are shown that there are lots of arguments going on between two political parties in the U.S media, so they are likely to have the impression that they are informed from both perspectives equally. These make people difficult to realize that the information they gain is limited.
The author takes the examples of the U.S government and media clearly limited information that the U.S citizens were given. The first one was the Iraq War and the run-up to the war. Despite the fact that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and many journalists or even people working for the government were against the run-up to the war, the government pushed aside those people and went to the war. Moreover, the government gave limited and crooked information to the media, and the media reported it to people, so it can be said that people were not fully informed. In the other example, the author compares the difference of perception and information Americans and Muslims were given. The author proceeds to say “information that is known so much of the world is actively suppressed in the U.S (834)”. For example, when 9.11 attacks happened, most American people did not know why Muslims hated them so much and attacked because they were not notified that the U.S had been invading Muslim countries for decades and killing people. Also, the U.S media did not really report when many Muslim journalists were detained in the U.S without any justified reason, but they mentioned about the report that the American journalist was detained in Iran for two months. These are many more examples that the government and media selectively report information to people, and due to that, there would be perceptual differences between Americans and people in different countries.
In conclusion, the author insists that these systems of propaganda are more complicated than we expected, and propaganda is something rooted in people’s minds and culture. There are many obstacles to get rid of propaganda because people have to fight with authority. He mentions that even journalists have to deal with the conflict between telling the truth and being marginalized from the society, and keeping their status, but telling distorted version of truth.
Related Ideas and Developed Arguments
There seem to be a lot of topics we explored in class. For instance, in the article, the author points out that people are satisfied with the information they are given and do not try to scrutinize more than that without any particular reason. It is similar to the idea of active/passive audience that we discussed in class. People tend to feel like they are informed enough, especially in the current society because there seem to be more resources to get whatever information or knowledge they want. However, it does not necessarily work that way because the fact that they have variable resources does not mean they actually take advantage of those resources. If people do not try to understand or gain knowledge of themselves through variable media, they would just receive selected information through limited media that are around them.
In the process of being active audience, there would be a question that how far people should be active? The question ultimately leads to the question of conformity because if people are too active, they could be seen with hostility by the government. As the author mentions in the article, those who do not support “the standard premises” of the government would easily be marginalized, and the journalists who try to denounce the government would lose the access to the official sources that many journalists use. The Culture Industry that is written by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer points out how capitalist society imposes strict rules on people, and eventually people would have to conform with the rules they are enforced by citing Tocqueville, “the ruler no longer says: You must think as I do or die. He says: You are free not to think as I do; your life, your property, everything shall remain yours, but from this day on you are a stranger among us. Not to rendered powerless, economically and therefore spiritually to be self-employed (12)”. Conforming with rules that the authority imposes seems really important to survive in the current society. However, if people always try to conform with whatever the authority assigns them, there would not be any change, and people would just yield to manipulation of the authority. In the examples that the author mentions, people are manipulated by limited information that the government gave them or are dismissed if they are against the government. Nevertheless, the film “No” proves that it is possible to cause great change even under repression of media by the authorities. In the case of the film, Chile had been under the repression of the dictator Pinochet. Due to the dictatorship, the media were used as a means to spread propaganda and nationalism. Even though, many people had been tortured and killed, the media were not allowed to report. This film describes the struggle of people who fought to defeat Pinochet at the 1988 referendum. In Chile’s case, although people were not informed by the media what actually was happening in Chile, they should have known something was wrong. However, they pretended not to see as long as they were not involved because they were scared of being against Pinochet. The campaign against Pinochet was called “No campaign,” and what they did was to make people’s eyes open and force them to see the reality in order to change. Their campaign was disturbed by people on Pinochet’s side, but it eventually made people realize that it was them who could bring change to Chile. Consequently, No campaign won, and Pinochet lost his position. This successive instance implies that if people attempt to change the system all together, it is totally achievable.
Another interesting argument the essay by Glenn Greenwald suggests is that most people do not want to accept that they are also one of those who are manipulated by information. People always argue and blame the systems of propaganda, but they are likely to forget that they could be part of the system because it is not something good to hear. Greenwald states, “we all prefer to think it happens to other people, not to ourselves (827)”. That implies that all people can blindly believe in the truthfulness of their knowledge and information they get. The denial of the possibility to be wrong seems to be a part of human nature because nobody is willing to be wrong or be controlled. Hence, people tend to differentiate themselves from others who are fallible and manipulated. His argument appears to indicate the reason that people repeat the same mistake in the history in terms of propaganda and media. It does not the matter of only in the U.S but all over the world that people have been controlled by propaganda and media, and sometimes that led them to tragedy such as Japan during WWII. As long as people do not face the fact they are being controlled by the authorities and having limited access to information, they would just repeat the same history. At the end of a film “The Hour of Furnaces” about the tragic situation in Argentina, where is controlled by foreign countries such as the U.S, Che Guevara is just staring at the audience for three minutes or so to make the audience uneasy. It seems to be really effective because Guevara’s face appears to ask the audience for taking action. The effect strongly appeals to people so that they cannot think the film is just someone else’s life and stay ignorant and indifferent to reality. This film proves that media can have impressive power to make people act if they are used properly.
Greenwald, Glenn. “Limiting Democracy: The American Media’s World View, And Ours.” Social Research 77.3 (2010): 827-838. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.